Chile jails 20 ex-police agents for Pinochet-era crimes

Operation Condor

SANTIAGO – A court in Chile on Friday handed prison sentences to 20 former Chilean intelligence agents for the kidnapping and murder of 12 people, between 1975 and 1977, during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.

Two of the former agents, Christoph Willeke Floel and Raul Iturriaga Neumann, were sentenced to 17 years in jail. Pedro Espinoza, Juan Morales, Jorge Escobar, Federico Chaigneau, and Miguel Riveros to 15 years in prison, while the remaining defendants were handed sentences ranging from 10 years to 100 days. More than 30 other ex-agents were acquitted.

Under Operation Condor — a secret campaign to wipe out the opposition – most of the victims were abducted in Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia before being taken to Chile to be tortured and killed during the 1970s. Some are still officially listed as missing.

The transnational intelligence operation ran for 10 years facilitating state terror throughout the Southern Cone. The Archives of Terror, a set of documents detailing military and intelligence communications among the countries involved, found in Paraguay in the early nineties, listed 50,000 people murdered and 30,000 forcibly disappeared.

In his ruling, Judge Mario Carroza said that Chile and the other three countries “not only agreed to detain the victims, but also created the conditions to lock them up and move them to our country with the sinister plan of confining them in secret places to interrogate and torture them and then proceed, with extreme cruelty, to eliminate them.”

The judge also ordered the state to pay compensations of between US$30,000 and US$134,000 for moral damage to the families of the 12 victims.

Chile’s secret police, the DINA, has been found responsible for carrying out multiple human rights violations, including killings, rape, torture and kidnappings under the country’s 1973-90 dictatorship. Dozens of former soldiers have already been sentenced for such crimes.

The overthrow of Socialist President Salvador Allende in 1973 and the political repression that followed prompted many left-wing activists to flee the country.

More than 3,000 Chileans were murdered by state agents during Pinochet’s rule. Tens of thousands of others were kidnapped, imprisoned or tortured. More than 1,000 people are still listed as missing.